The MIPS Creator CI20 is a small, low-cost single-board computer with an Ingenic JZ4780 processor, PowerVR SGX540 graphics, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of flash storage.

It’s basically Imagination Technologies’s answer to the Raspberry Pi… but instead of an ARM-based chip, it uses the company’s MIPS-based processor. The goal is to make it easier for software and hardware developers to create projects that use MIPS technology.

To that end, Imagination isn’t even selling its first developer boards… the company is giving them away. There’s a limited supply though, so it’s not like the company is guaranteeing you can get a free dev board.

mips creator ci20

In order to get a free MIPS Creator CI20 you’ll need to register at the Imagination store and provide some information about the project you plan to work on. The company will try to ship out units to some developers soon. Several hundred units are also heading to universities.

So what can you do with this little computer? Out of the box it’ll run Debian 7 and it supports other Linux-based operating systems including Gentoo, Yocto, Angstrom, and Arch. Imagination promises support for Android 4.4 KitKat soon.

That means you could use it as a small desktop PC or media center… but you could also use it to design your own laptop or tablet, build a robot, control a home automation system, or do just about anything you can think of that involves a small, low-power PC.

The board measures about 3.8″ x 3.6″ and features a 1.2 GHz Injenic JZ4780 dual-core processor, 10/100 Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and PowerVR graphics with support for MP4, H.264, and VP8 decoding. It has an SD card reader, a USB host port and a USB OTG port, as well as 25 GPIO pins and other developer-friendly connectors.

The MIPS Creator CI20 is intended to be the first member of the Creator family. We could see more models in the future.

ci20 compare

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9 replies on “Imagination is giving away its first MIPS-based dev board for free (to some people)”

  1. Why would you give 1k units for free (someone said on engadget this number) , when you can sell 3k pcs for 70% of the production cost of the board, and you still loose less money than in the first case when you were giving them for free.
    BTW, their servers were down due to high number of requests. If it were selling for 35-40$, perhaps half of those who wanted a free one, would consider buying it.
    For this price, i would, if it has linux on it. Need more powerful board than RPi.

    1. I see what you’re saying and we actually thought about it. But ultimately we wanted to offer this board to everyone – some developers have cool projects but sometimes lack the (financial) resources to get started. By building a solid database of projects, we hope to select the ones that sound really interesting and help them get started. We are thinking about selling the board too in the future.

      1. Good luck with your project! (Mult succes!).

        It’s an interesting board, with great specs and linux support. I’ll definitely keep an eye on this one when it hits the shelves!

  2. It all comes down to a foundation/religion that will sell the boards for a low price… that is the power of raspberry pi. If Imagination would open-source its drivers, there could be a good chance for the pi foundation to adopt it.

    1. Considering how long powervr has been around you would think they would have sorted out the whole driver thing already. The clear message after many many many years is that they have no motivation to fix it. So its hard to get excited.

      1. I don’t think motivation is a factor. We are tied down by commercial agreements and cannot simply release drivers without the approval of our customers since it is, after all, their silicon – not ours.

  3. Nice board. What are the advantages of MIPS over ARM though?
    I wonder what the eventual retail price will be.

    1. There are several advantages; you can take your pick from multi-threading capabilities, better SIMD, smaller area, lower power and higher performance.

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